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PRESS RELEASE: Parliament Report Slams HSBC for Freezing Hong Kong Emigrants' Pensions

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

8 February 2023 – The British All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hong Kong has released a report on British banks operating in Hong Kong, detailing how HSBC, Standard Chartered, and other British banks have supported the National Security Law and contributed to human rights abuses in Hong Kong. The launch of the report was led by the APPG’s Chairman Alistair Carmichael MP and Vice-Chair Baroness Bennett and attended by other parliamentarians, activists, and Hong Kongers affected by the issues exposed in the report.

Since the implementation of the National Security Law in June 2020, which includes the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) deliberately vague language to criminalise any act of purported secession, subversion, terrorism, or collusion, individuals and organisations worldwide have been under attack. Despite global condemnation of the National Security Law, some British banks that operate in Hong Kong including HSBC have supported the law.

The APPG’s report reveals how HSBC has repeatedly withheld Mandatory Provident Funds, or compulsory savings accounts, for Hong Kongers’ who have moved to the UK using the British National (Overseas) (BNO) visa. Former Hong Kong Legislative Councillor Ted Hui testified that HSBC froze his and his family’s bank accounts and described how their lack of access to funds has destroyed their ability to live a normal life. The report has numerous other case studies highlighting how British banks are collaborating with pro-National Security Law personnel in Hong Kong.

The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong (CFHK) Foundation contributed to the report by highlighting the role of accounting firm BDO Global in the fallout over the shutdown of pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily. On page 35 of the report, the CFHK Foundation declared, “Global firms such as BDO cannot claim to be acting in a socially responsible way in some jurisdictions, while enabling authoritarian silencing of news media and undermining the rule of law in other jurisdictions”. The CFHK Foundation urged UK, US, and European government officials to publicly scrutinise the professional service sectors that threaten freedom in Hong Kong.

The APPG calls for the UK government to introduce Magnitsky-style sanctions against Hong Kong authorities and CCP officials. Finally, the APPG suggests that the UK and US punish financial institutions that support the CCP’s draconian National Security Law.

Mark Clifford, the CFHK Foundation’s President, said:

“HSBC’s complicity in Hong Kong’s political crackdown must not be tolerated. The behaviour of British banks is cruel towards the people who have left Hong Kong and simply want to start a new life. People who have nothing to do with politics are seeing their pensions frozen. This is theft, pure and simple, with banks like HSBC robbing working families who want nothing more than a life of freedom. It should give the lie to anyone who thinks it’s business as usual in today’s Hong Kong.

“The APPG’s report exposes the twisted acts of the Hong Kong authorities and the complicity of international financial institutions. There must not be complacency when it comes to doing business with organizations that turn a blind eye to the National Security Law, a vague and sweeping law which poses a threat to freedom in Hong Kong, the UK, and the rest of the world.”

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